Gillette lines up Oral-B ad push

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Gillette Co. will spend $100 million next year to brush up its oral care brands and reinforce its position as the leading marketer of manual and powered toothbrushes.

Gillette's Oral-B will be repackaged for 2001 and new products will be introduced under the brand name. Three new powered toothbrushes, under the co-branded Braun Oral-B line, will also launch to expand that franchise. Both moves will be supported with new advertising. The $100 million global budget is an increase over previous spending levels. According to Competitive Media Reporting, Gillette spent a combined $35 million in 1999 on U.S. media to support its manual and powered toothbrushes, and a combined $22.5 in the first half of 2000.

Over the next year, Oral-B will introduce new packaging and a new ad campaign to position the brand as the one most recommended by dental professionals, said John Darman, senior VP-oral care, Gillette. Ads from Gotham, New York, tagged, "Helping you have healthy teeth for life," will break globally in the first quarter. The spots "establish Oral-B as a partner in health," said Mr. Darman.

Oral-B will also introduce the Advantage Plus, an improved version of the current top-line manual product, which will reach stores by the end of this year. This follows a recent overhaul of its children's line - which makes up 15% of global manual brush sales - including new colors and textures and new Blue's Clues and Disney character designs. But it's the Braun Oral-B Plaque Remover line of rechargeable powered toothbrushes that will get the lion's share of the attention in Gillette's 2001 marketing plans, said Mr. Darman.


Braun Oral-B will add three new products to its Plaque Remover lineup. A kids' model that will retail for $39.99 will feature Disney characters, a head designed for smaller teeth and a musical timer to ensure kids brush for an adequate time. An entry-level model, priced at $19.99 and Braun Oral-B's first battery-operated entry, will be displayed next to Oral-B's manual brushes to encourage consumer trade-up. The top-line 3D Excel, which will sell at $79, includes a premium brush head with bendable bristles, pressure sensor and memory timer to track brushing time.

The new products will be supported by a campaign from Lowe Lintas & Partners, New York, focused on the Excel and Kids' models. It will include print, TV and online advertising, consumer and trade promotions and point-of-sale displays.

To make way for the new products, Braun Oral-B will shuffle remaining products, dropping prices on the former top-line and mid-priced models, and discontinuing existing entry-level products.

Manual brushes continue to be the backbone of Gillette's oral care business, but powered brushes are the fastest-growing segment in the category. Mr. Darman said Gillette has seen a 33% compound annual growth rate in that business since it introduced the Braun Oral-B Plaque Removers in 1992. The growth potential is huge, in spite of additional competition from rivals such as Optiva Corp.'s Sonicare - recently acquired by Philips - and Colgate-Palmolive's battery-powered Actibrush.

Braun Oral-B is by far the leading brand in the powered segment, according to data from ACNielsen compiled by J.P. Morgan & Co. The Braun Oral-B Plaque Remover line had 36.4% of dollar sales for the 52 weeks ending Nov. 4, while Sonicare had 24.3% million and Teledyne's Water Pik line had 13.3%.

Electric and battery-operated brushes and refills made up a $206.2 million market in that time period, up from $155.3 million in the same period in 1999, according to ACNielsen. But the arrivals of Actibrush and a powered model from Johnson & Johnson's Reach line have cut into the market shares of all leading brands. Additionally, the purchase by Philips of Optiva - whose longtime rivalry with Braun Oral-B led to lawsuits over ad claims two years ago - promises to increase the competition in the segment.

Copyright December 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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